Civil Service reforms set to do away with tedious, obsolete structure

ISLAMABAD:The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government has covered another milestone by reforming the decades old structure of the Civil Service with the objectives to transform it into a merit based, depoliticized cadre of professionals.

The PTI, during its elections campaigns, had pledged bring about wide ranging reforms in the system. It had promised to introduce a system of internal accountability to encourage the competent officials and weed out inefficient people.

The Civil service in Pakistan had seen many reforms and the efforts by this incumbent government would be another step to transform the service, ensuring that the best officers reach the top slots who were dedicated to service.

A notification in this regard might be issued next week, an official source in the Establishment Division told reporter on Saturday.

According to the documents, the source disclosed that for the first time, the reforms were being made in the promotion rules of the Civil Servants Promotion (BS-18 to BS-21) Rules, 2020, because, earlier, no promotion rules were framed in this regard and there existed few policy memorandums in the scattered forms.

Now, such rules will deal with the promotion of civil servants in a comprehensive manner as the bar of ‘Promotion Threshold’ had been raised.

Other conditions for promotion included for the first time, submission of declaration of assets made mandatory, ensuring promotions to be objective, transparent & merit based, collective judgment of the promotion board has become more relevant (more marks for the board; from 15% to 30%).

Besides, the Civil Service (Retirement from Service) Rules, 2020, to review the performance of civil servants had also been finalized which entailed mandatory performance review of all civil servants after twenty years of service.

In addition, regular reviews will be done even after 20 years of service. The government will have the option to retire civil servants after 20 year service after following the prescribed procedure.

In the retirement rules, it said ‘Section 13 of the Civil Servants Act envisages that civil servants shall retire after twenty years of service, as may be directed by the competent authority and where no such direction is given, on reaching sixty years of service.’

The option of retirement after twenty years of service had never been exercised by the government, resulting in assured career path till sixty years, discouraging initiative and competition.

Moreover, there was a tendency of PAS/PSP officers to stick to one province for years at length, virtually becoming provincial service which resulted in lack of variety of experience and loss of impartiality & neutrality.

This concept of All Pakistan Services has been seriously compromised and to overcome this issue, new rotation policy was being introduced.

Under these reforms, first allocation of all officers would be made outside the province of domicile and there would be no transfer from the province of first allocation on any ground. It was made mandatory to stay outside the home province in BS 17 & 18 (males – 5 years, females – 3 years)

For the promotion to BS – 19, the conditions are:-

Two years’ service in hard areas essential for promotion to BS – 20 which would not be applicable to female officers and these hard areas would be notified by the Establishment Division. Presently Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan were notified as the hard areas.

Under these reforms, no PAS/PSP officer would be allowed to serve for more than ten years continuously in a province/Islamabad. Transfers to other provinces or Islamabad would be made on completion of ten years.

It was mandatory condition for the promotion to BS – 21 under which the serving officers would be rotated in phases.

Furthermore, the career progression policy for PAS/PSP/OMG officers had been finalized ensuring merit based placements to have ‘the right officer for the right job’, structured career progression by placing the specialist – generalist balance in effect.

The skill enhancement would be considered to have a core group of sector specific professionals. For BS-17/18, it envisaged gaining adequate command over the regional / provincial language of the province of posting.

Other conditions would be to initiate self-sustaining public welfare initiatives in the area of their responsibility aimed at better service delivery, development of a case study based on the field experiences of the area, to be taught at Civil Services Academy or National School of Public Policy.

The OMG officers must complete two tenures of three years each in Federal Government in two main Ministries of diverse sectors.

Under this initiative, BS-19 officers should have the opportunities for obtaining foreign qualifications and trainings in selected areas of specialization.

For PSP officers, the training requirements must also include more practical aspects relating to law and order as well as security. Specialized courses in counter terrorism, counterintelligence, investigation, crime prevention and counter extremism and radicalization are essential.

Officers from Provincial Management Service / Provincial Civil Service from all provinces, Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan will be provided opportunity of induction in the Pakistan Administrative Service.

Moreover, the sector specific specialization is imperative for holding positions of higher responsibility in BS-20 and beyond.

It also referred to open selected positions of BS-20 in identified Ministries/ Divisions in the Federal Secretariat to officers/ persons with relevant technical expertise, qualifications and experience, so as to enhance provision of sound technical advice to top management for better informed policy making.

The BS-21 positions must be filled with officers who are generally considered capable of reaching and manning BS-22 positions.

It was noted that a large number of share of PAS positions in provinces remained vacant and need rationalization.

So in order to address the issue, the cadre strength would be reduced by more than 600 to approximately 1300 posts from the existing 1900 plus posts. These posts will be filled by the provinces overcoming the shortages there.

The Federal Secretariat positions in selected ministries would be filled by technical experts through a competitive process.

About performance management, it said, the present evaluation system was very subjective as there was no distinction between the good and poor performers, lacking link with compensation and rewards.

It also did not provide information about capabilities and potential of the officers and connection between the performance goals and performance evaluation.

The cabinet had already approved the performance management reforms which had the salient features like performance audit through agreements to be signed between the Minister concerned and the Prime Minister.

All the 40 Ministries/ Divisions will enter into Performance Agreements starting 1st July, 2020, first draft by 30th April and final draft by 31st May and signing of contract by 30th June this year.

A pilot phase, in this regard, is being launched on Monday, 17th February. It involves signing of performance agreement by the prime minister with ten ministries for the third and fourth quarters of financial year 2019-20.

Under it, forced ranking system is being introduced including, outstanding: 20%, very good: 30%, good: 30%, average: 10% and below average: 10%.

The performance evaluation of the officers would be based on quantifiable KPIs and job descriptions, work had already started to start implementation from the start of next financial year 2020-21.

It also contained new efficiency and discipline rules which focused on elimination of the tier of authorized officer, placing time limit for the Inquiry Officer for a period of 60 days and for the concerned authority a period of 30 days.

The law would introduce new penalties including; fines, forfeiture of past service and recovery of embezzled money.